Day 1 ~ Friday Sept.19th
After a last minute bit of packing at some unearthly hour of the morning, my DW and I were finally ready for our taxi to arrive to transport us to Manchester Airport for the start of our voyage. [We had left a load of clothes at our villa when we were there earlier this year, but unfortunately I had somehow managed to misplace the list of those items so it had been a case of hunting for things that were already over the pond, hence the last minute searches!].
After an uneventful journey to the airport, we presented ourselves bright and early at the PE counter of Virgin Atlantic hoping that we would be able to secure our favourite seats [row 75 by an emergency exit] in exchange for those to which we had been assigned [71 H & K].
We were greeted by a check in clerk who obviously was lacking something in the charm department [I`m sure that she was the type who loves sucking lemons ] who, not so politely, told me that THEY HAD ALREADY BEEN TAKEN…deliberate use of capitals here to emphasise her attitude! However hey, we were on our way to Florida so what the heck?
We made our way upstairs where we experienced for our first time the relocated security check point which had previously been on the ground floor. Although there were quite a lot of folks in line, the line was steadily moving and we were soon through that obstacle and we made our way to the Servisair Lounge [thank you for the Priority Pass Mr . Natwest!] which despite it being a bit crowded, nevertheless we managed to find a couple of seats where we could relax and have a couple of drinks before our flight was called.
As usual our plane [Ruby Tuesday] was parked on a remote stand so we were all herded like cattle onto a fleet of busses for the trip across the tarmac. :mad:
On boarding, I was unable to fit my carry on bag into the overhead locker so I went to the galley at the rear of our upstairs cabin where I saw a hostess who greeted me with “Hello, welcome back. Don`t I recognise you from a previous flight?” At this stage I did vaguely remember seeing her before, but not wanting to offend her I made out that obviously I remembered her also. Maybe this would get me a champagne “top up” later! :p015:
Bag duly stored in a rear closet, what followed was a very smooth flight over the pond. My only regret being that I really wanted to see the new Indiana Jones movie but unfortunately I fell asleep half way through it. [Yes I did get the champagne “top up” and this, along with a couple of G & T`s, wine, and brandy after lunch were responsible for me failing to see the end of the film! ].
On arrival at MCO we only had a short wait before presenting ourselves before the Immigration Officer who seemed a very pleasant guy, even to the point of saying “I like your airplanes” upon seeing my surname. [Those of you who know my name can relate to this, although it did take a while for the penny to drop with me!....I blame it on it our early start to the day!] He also handed me a leaflet which explained in detail the process of what to do for our next flight in 2009 after they drop the Visa Waiver Programme, before we collected our bags and went through the process of going through Customs, dropping the bags off at another coveyor, walking through the satellite gate area, boarding the shuttle, walking through the main airport to make our way to Baggage Claim A….phew! [For some reason, on our past couple of trips we have arrived and departed from this terminal rather than Terminal B which used to be the norm].
Here is where VA seem to have come up trumps. The carousel for our bags was on the floor below the regular carousel area, right next door to the Virgin Holidays and car rental area which was very convenient. :thumbs_up:
I had booked a car from VA and I had to report to the VH counter before making my way to a separate Dollar car rental counter where I requested, and was granted a Dodge Charger which was to be our chariot for the next 3 weeks or so. Compared to the cars over here, the Chargers “get up and go” has definitely “got up and gone”, but I do admire the styling of that particular car, hence my preference having driven several of them beforehand.
It was just then that I noticed a DCL bus outside the building which reminded me of what was to come later during our trip. Although we would be driving to Port Canaveral for our cruise the next week, nevertheless it got us in the mood.
After arriving at our villa [passing by a new Publix that we noticed had opened en route to our villa since our earlier trip] and unpacking our cases [reuniting ourselves with the clothes we had left behind from our previous trip], my DW and I drove the short distance to US192 where we had dinner at Key W Kools restaurant which is our customary port of call on our first night in Florida, and where I can guarantee a decent steak for me and an equally nice fish dish for my DW.
Suitably fed and watered, it was time to call it a day and we retired to bed at around 9.00pm and sleep came almost immediately. :bed1: